There are a number of videos that teach children how to be safe around dogs. The American Kennel Club’s video, “The Dog Listener” uses young actors to show children how to handle potentially dangerous situations with dogs including how to react when an unknown dog is running in a park (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTjTzP5Bod0).
The “Eddie Eagle” video of the National Rifle Association (NRA) teaches children what to do if they encounter a gun in a place they didn’t expect, and numerous “stranger danger” videos aim to prevent kidnapping by teaching children to never get in a car with someone they don’t know.
How effective are these educational videos? As it turns out, there is experimentally controlled research on this very topic of using videos to teach children safety behaviors and the answer is…drumroll please……
Videos alone are not effective in teaching safety behaviors to children.
A well-known researcher in this area, Dr. Ray Miltenberger, taught a group of children everything they needed to know about gun safety using stand-up training and a video. “If you find a gun, don’t touch it, go and get an adult.” The children learned the material, and answered questions correctly. Then, immediately following the instruction, they were given the opportunity to do an activity and have a snack. The researchers had placed a (disabled) gun on the snack table. With a group of mortified parents watching via a hidden camera, one child found the gun, picked it up, and pointed it at the head of another child.
When dog trainers use a video such as AKC’s “The Dog Listener” to teach children to be safe around dogs, the video can serve as a good starting point for the discussion. Then, two things need to happen for the instruction to be effective: 1) the children need to have practice using the skills with real dogs; the instructor provides modeling and reinforcement of correct behaviors, and 2) the training with real dogs needs to be generalized to the child’s home and neighborhood setting with a parent or adult providing training and feedback.
– Mary R. Burch, PhD, Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D)